Affidavit: Rep. Steve Watkins lied about address change, not voting

By: - July 29, 2020 7:20 pm
Felony charges against Rep. Steve Watkins have become a flashpoint in his GOP primary race against state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Felony charges against Rep. Steve Watkins have become a flashpoint in his GOP primary race against state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

A Shawnee County sheriff’s detective in her affidavit report says U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins lied to her when he claimed he didn’t actually vote in a local election and wasn’t responsible for listing a UPS store as his home address.

Video surveillance and a review of mail-in ballots provide the basis for three felony charges filed two weeks ago against Watkins for voter fraud and giving false information to a law enforcement officer. Watkins faces a GOP primary challenge for his 2nd District seat from Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

Detective Stephanie Dicken’s affidavit was released Wednesday in response to requests filed by Kansas Reflector and other media outlets with the Shawnee County District Court.

Read the affidavit

Dicken was assigned to investigate potential voter fraud by Watkins after the Topeka Capital-Journal reported last year the congressman listed a UPS store as his home address when he changed his voter registration and requested a mail-in ballot.

At the time of the election, Watkins lived in an apartment complex in a different Topeka City Council district than the UPS store.

During an interview with the detective, which was recorded on her body camera, Watkins blamed the mixup in addresses on a staffer who would have filled out the forms for him.

“Watkins told me he moves a lot. He did not intend to mislead anyone,” Dicken said. “He further explained he obviously wasn’t trying to claim he lives at the UPS store.”

The Kansas Department of Revenue provided surveillance video, she wrote, and supporting documentation that show Watkins changed his residential and mailing address in person at a driver’s license office in Topeka, making him personally responsible for listing the address of the UPS store.

The detective also had asked Watkins if he was aware he may have voted in the wrong Topeka City Council race. Watkins told the detective he didn’t actually vote for city council.

The detective then checked the mail-in ballots from the group that would have included Watkins and discovered there were no blank ballots.

“With the release of this charging affidavit, Steve Watkins owes the career law enforcement officials he has slandered the past two weeks an apology,” LaTurner said.

Attorneys for Watkins asked the court to seal the charging affidavit, contending that publication would prevent witnesses from coming forward. District Judge Penny Moylan rejected the request, noting consideration for the public interest.

Watkins contends the charges brought by Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay’s office are politically motivated. Court filings by Watkins show Kagay and LaTurner have used the same political consultant in their campaigns.

“Every day that goes by, we learn just how weak and politically motivated the D.A.’s office is,” said Bryan Piligra, campaign spokesman for Watkins. “Congressman Watkins — as he has said from day one — made a simple clerical error and immediately corrected it. The real investigation needs to be of Jake LaTurner and this corrupt prosecutor, who have colluded in an attempt to manipulate Kansas voters. Luckily, voters are smarter than these prosecutors and they see right through this charade.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.